Back in December, Sega released a brand new title, Judgment (formerly titled Judge Eyes) in Japan - a spin-off of its popular Yakuza series - that sees players take control of a private detective as he gets into brawls throughout the city of Kamurocho while trying to solve a serial murder case. The title has been doing well commercially since then, and many Western fans have been eager for its scheduled Summer 2019 release. However, it looks as if the title has now been pulled completely from both retail and digital store-fronts in Japan due to one of the game's actors being arrested for drug use, throwing a Western launch into question.
Pierre Taki, a Japanese actor who plays the character of Kyohei Hanamura in Judgment, was recently arrested following several tip-offs that he was in possession of drugs. His home was searched and he was later transferred to a police station in Tokyo's Koto Ward and subjected to a urine test, which turned up traces of cocaine.
Sega issued a brief statement regarding the situation, stating that it would be removing Judgment for sale while the investigation is ongoing. Considering how drug charges are incredibly serious in Japan, with Taki potentially facing a very lengthy prison sentence, it's not surprising that Sega would want to distance itself from the actor.
That said, one could argue that some of the methods Sega has undertaken to distance itself from the situation is an overreaction. For instance, on top of Judgment's removal from sale, the game's official Japanese website is gone and has been replaced with another statement explaining the situation. What's more is that even tweets about the game have been removed.
When, or even if, Judgment will be re-released in Japan is unknown, as well as if this will affect the game's Western release. Wall Street Journal tech reporter Takashi Mochizuki did state on Twitter that Sega is still "discussing what to do" regarding the title's Western release. Taki is also the Japanese actor for the character of Olaf from Disney's Frozen franchise, having reprised his role in Kingdom Hearts 3. However, it's not yet known if that game will be affected as well, though it has since been confirmed that he will be replaced for Frozen 2.
This isn't the first time Sega has responded to a situation in this manner. Its upcoming PS4 remaster of Yakuza 4 has been heavily altered due to one of its main actors, Hiroki Narimiya, retiring following allegations of drug use. Since his likeness was used for the character, the remaster will replace him with another actor, Toshiki Masuda.
Sega: discussing what to do with western release of its "Judgement" game after a related Japanese actor's arrest. No decisions made yet.— Takashi Mochizuki (@mochi_wsj) March 13, 2019
Sega seems very much intent to try and avoid any sort of controversy whenever possible, as has been also evidenced with its Yakuza 3 remaster. The remastered game released in Japan in August 2018 and was revealed to have completely removed certain content that was deemed transphobic.
Amid this whole situation involving Judgment's removal from sale in Japan, it was reported earlier this week that Google could be releasing its own video game console, and rumors suggest that Sega will be partnering with the company to produce titles for it. Should this be the case, then there's the potential for revivals of some of Sega's older IPs on the rumored piece of hardware.
The Yakuza spin-off Judgment is currently scheduled to release in the West on June 25, 2019 as a PS4 exclusive, but there's no official word on its fate in the marketplace just yet.